Mountain reflects on the allure of high-altitude landscapes and the human desire to explore these majestic peaks

11 Adventure Documentaries That Inspire Us To Go Explore

As humans, we're wired to explore. Sure, we're not all free solo rock climbers, but the desire to experience the thrill of the wild is a common yearning. And sometimes, watching others achieve the impossible can inspire us to do the same. 

Personally, as an avid rock climber for over twenty years, the following documentaries have influenced me to seek my own “mini-adventures” and have challenged me to push my limits. These films deliver heart-pounding adventure and capture the courage, resilience, and unyielding passion that drives individuals to seek out the extraordinary and redefine what's possible in outdoor exploration. 

This handpicked selection of adventure documentaries will ignite your spirit of exploration, encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, and inspire you with the awe of Earth's wild places. 

Riding Giants (2004)

Epic wave riding by some of the legends in the sport.
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

Directed by Stacy Peralta, “Riding Giants” explores the evolution of big wave surfing and the pioneers who dared to ride colossal waves. The documentary showcases the adrenaline-fueled pursuit of the perfect wave, inviting audiences to appreciate the courage and skill of those who conquer the ocean's giants.

180° South (2010)

Rediscovering the spirit of adventure. Jeff Johnson, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins sit around the campfire in this scene.
Image Credit: Magnolia Pictures.

“180° South” follows adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraces the epic 1968 journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia. Blending surfing, climbing, and environmental activism, the documentary celebrates the joy of exploration and the importance of preserving the planet for future generations.

Valley Uprising (2014)

Valley Uprising scene with climbers on the side of the mountain.
Image Credit: Big Up Productions.

“Valley Uprising” chronicles the evolution of rock climbing in Yosemite Valley, featuring legendary climbers who pushed the boundaries of the sport. The documentary explores the countercultural movement and the pursuit of freedom on the vertical walls, inspiring viewers to embrace the adventurous spirit of rock climbing.

Meru (2015)

scene from film of climbers on side of mountain climbing up to the peak using ice picks and other tools.
Image Credit: Little Monster Films.

“Meru” follows climbers Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk as they attempt the daunting Shark's Fin route on Mount Meru in the Himalayas. The documentary provides a gripping look at the physical and mental challenges of high-altitude mountaineering, encouraging audiences to appreciate the indomitable human spirit.

Sherpa (2015)

scene in film of sherpa leading the way and setting the lead line for other climbers.
Image Credit: Arrow Media.

In 2014, a tragedy struck Everest when a block of ice weighing 14,000 tons claimed the lives of 16 Sherpas. This event marked a dark chapter in Everest's history and led to a profound reassessment of the Sherpas' role in the Everest industry. The documentary “SHERPA” chronicles how the Sherpas united in grief and anger to reclaim the mountain they call Chomolungma, offering a compelling account of their journey to regain ownership of the sacred Everest.

The Dawn Wall (2017)

Kevin making scary traverse move on the Dawn Wall climb.
Image Credit: Sender Films.

“The Dawn Wall” documents the historic free climb of El Capitan's Dawn Wall by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. The film captures the determination, skill, and camaraderie required to conquer one of the most challenging rock faces in the world, inspiring viewers to pursue their own seemingly impossible goals.

Mountain (2017)

Image Credit: Stranger Than Fiction Films.

“Mountain,” narrated by Willem Dafoe, combines breathtaking cinematography and classical music to celebrate the awe-inspiring beauty of mountains. The documentary reflects on the allure of high-altitude landscapes and the human desire to explore these majestic peaks, inspiring a sense of reverence for the world's most elevated terrains.

Free Solo (2018)

Alex Honnold climbing the crack section of his Free Solo project.
Image Credit: Little Monster Films.

“Free Solo” captures the extraordinary journey of Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb without a rope on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The documentary showcases the mental and physical challenges of free solo climbing, inspiring viewers to appreciate nature and the pursuit of personal excellence.

The Alpinist (2021)

Image Credit: Red Bull Media House.

In this documentary, filmmaker Peter Mortimer follows Canadian climber Marc-André Leclerc, who prefers to climb alone, without ropes or cameras. Mortimer struggles to keep up with Leclerc's relentless pace but eventually captures his astonishing climb in Patagonia, pushing the limits of solo climbing and human achievement. The film offers an intimate look into the mind and motivations of a true alpinist.

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible (2021)

Image Credit: Little Monster Films.

“14 Peaks: Project Possible” is a documentary about Nepali high-altitude climber Nirmal Purja's ambitious plan to conquer all 14 of the world's highest peaks with altitudes surpassing 8000 meters in just 7 months. The documentary showcases Purja's relentless pursuit and the immense challenges he faces in this race against time and nature. It captures the essence of determination, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a climber driven by an unparalleled passion for conquering the world's highest peaks within an unprecedented timeframe.

The Deepest Breadth (2023)

Image Credit: A24 Productions.

Alessia Zecchini is an Italian freediving champion aiming to break a world record. Stephen Keenan, a safety diver, is her ally in this extreme sport. They forge a unique bond while training to challenge Dahab's legendary Blue Hole. However, a tragic event unfolds, binding their fates in an unforeseen manner.

15 Romance Films With Unconventional Narratives

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Photo Credit Focus Features.

Looking for something interesting to watch? How about a love story with a twist?

Author: Corey Turner

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Pets, Nature, Project Management

Corey Turner is a journalist, conservationist, outdoor enthusiast, and passionate pet owner. Corey founded FurBallFun in 2022. He's known for his honest pet product reviews and guidance for navigating pet behavior, health, and nutrition.